March 20th, 2012
10:38 AM ET
11 years ago

Campaign calls De Niro comment 'inappropriate' after Gingrich blast

UPDATE 3/21: On Wednesday, Robert De Niro released the following statement through his representative: "My remarks, although spoken with satirical jest, were not meant to offend or embarrass anyone - especially the First Lady."

(CNN) – President Barack Obama's reelection organization said Tuesday it was "inappropriate" for Robert De Niro to joke at a campaign fundraiser in New York Monday that America wasn't "ready for a white first lady."

"We believe the joke was inappropriate," Olivia Alair, Campaign Press Secretary to the First Lady, said in a statement.

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The campaign's comment came after Newt Gingrich delivered a scorching response to De Niro's comments at an Obama for America fundraiser, which was attended by first lady Michelle Obama.

While Michelle Obama headlined the event, she was introduced after De Niro's remarks. The event was also attended by a number of other prominent Obama supporters, including Harvey Weinstein and Beyonce.

"Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?" De Niro asked to cheers from the crowd. "Too soon, right?"

Speaking Tuesday, Gingrich labeled the comments "inexcusable," and called on Obama to apologize.

"I do want to say one thing, both on behalf of my wife and on behalf of Karen Santorum and on behalf of Ann Romney, I think that Robert De Niro's wrong," Gingrich said. "I think the country is ready for a new first lady and he doesn't have to describe it in racial terms."

Gingrich immediately clarified he thought Michelle Obama, along with the wives of his fellow GOP presidential candidates, were all "fine ladies."

"But this is not about the first lady," Gingrich continued. "It's about the president. That's where De Niro missed the whole point. De Niro is rich enough he probably doesn't notice the price of gasoline. He's successful enough he probably doesn't notice the unemployment rate. As the Hollywood actor, he might well be shortsighted enough he doesn't understand what it might do to our children and our grandchildren."

Gingrich called on Obama to apologize for the remarks, since they were made at an event raising money for his reelection.

"What De Niro said last night was inexcusable and the president should apologize for him. It was at an Obama fundraiser, it is exactly wrong, it divides the country," Gingrich said, adding that the left was quick to call out conservative talk show hosts for offensive comments but silent when the vitriol comes from the left.

"If people on the left want to talk about talk show hosts, then everybody in the country should hold the president accountable when someone at his event says something that is utterly and terrible unacceptable as what Robert De Niro said," Gingrich said.

Speaking on the Laura Ingraham Show Tuesday, fellow presidential candidate Rick Santorum largely avoided weighing in on De Niro's comments.

"It's just someone from Hollywood or someone from the entertainment industry just spouting off as they do," Santorum said. "It's sad, but I'm not going to bite on that one. It's just sad. The idea of looking at politics through eyes of race should be over. That's just over. I don't know where he thinks he's coming from."

CNN's Chris Welch and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Also see:

Romney can't escape birth control questions in Illinois

Obama leads GOP in battleground Virginia

Rubio to headline major South Carolina GOP fundraiser

Filed under: 2012 • Newt Gingrich • President Obama
soundoff (844 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    Newt took the bait? Newt has allowed himself to get off message. What was his message anyway? Oh, yeah.

    Newt told the people along the Florida space coast that he would have an operational moonbase by 2016. Yeah, right. Now he's telling the nation that he can have $2.50 per gallon gasoline at some future date that he has not yet disclosed.

    March 20, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  2. Anonymous

    DeNiro is a has been. He is an elitist who hasn't acted well in 30 years. His race baiting works well when he is surrounded by bodyguards and doormen. It is important to boycott their movies. Shame on Michelle Obama for not calling out the incivility and divisiveness. I expected better of her, and I am very disappointed.

    March 20, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  3. The Real Tom Paine

    Oh, come on, DeNiro is just an entertainer, folks. Will the righties counter with Victoria Jackson again?

    March 20, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  4. Paul1st

    Newt should apologize for being Newt. Even his GOP fellow travelers think so.

    March 20, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  5. jamarsu

    Oh shut up Newt. Can't you take a joke. I'd much prefer Michelle over your wife and I'm white.

    March 20, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  6. Nobodies Pon

    What Newt should be talking him dropping out the race because he cant win a nomination from his own party. This guy is waste of flesh for real he killing his on party with his selfish quest to get a moon colony. The republicans need to ban this guy for life after this election. Between him and bush 2 are the two worst thing the republicans have done to this country.

    March 20, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  7. MNTaxpayer

    I didn't think it was possible, but Newt has reached a new level of foolishness. What a sad, desparate little clown he is.

    March 20, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  8. The Real Tom Paine

    In that case, Jon Voight, Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton, Dennis Miller and Janine Turner should be apologizing as well. I doubt they are feeling the pinch from the economic disaster their patrons created.

    March 20, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  9. DrJStrangepork

    Newt and De Niro are dumb to get into this. This distracts from what the real issues are. It kicks up emotional responses and we will not get anywhere if the conversation is being driven by the way people feel. You want to talk feelings go to therapy or put it in your diary.

    March 20, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  10. sharon

    No remarks about race and you're safe. De Niro should apologize and put it behind him.

    March 20, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  11. The GOP opens mouth and inserts foot

    Please don't judge Georgians by this nitwit. Gingrich does NOT represent the typical Georgian.

    March 20, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  12. josh101

    Jeez, seriously?? Oh oh, poor Gingrich... And the claim that this should be considered as being spoken with a similar intend as the Limbaugh affair is beyond belief...

    March 20, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  13. johnborg

    Clearly, Gingrich doesn't understand satire. The racial situation in this nation hasn't allowed for a black first lady until now. I think we should all be proud of this. Clearly, DeNiro was being satirical; I don't get Gingrich – he's nuts. Also, doesn't Gingrich have plenty of stupid comments that he should have apologized for by now?

    March 20, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  14. chuck weidemann

    Newt has lost his pleasantness!!! Not anymore southern states with primaries coming up. Newt's relevance has evaporated.

    March 20, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  15. thomas

    Is it true that Newt Gingrich turned dow the part of Moe in the three stooges movie ?

    Newt Gingrich / Tom Delay

    Dancing to Freedom 2012

    March 20, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  16. Michael SC

    Newt, you are right about 1 thing.
    All 3 of you (Rick, Mitt and you) are rich enough to have no clue about the problems of the middle-class.
    When was the last time, that you had to pay co-insurance and co-pays for your health-insurance?

    Thought so

    March 20, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  17. Georgia Tee

    Newton Leroy, please go the way of Palin, Pawlenty, Perry, Cain, and any other right minded wingnut, who can dish it out but can't take it. Just like the other right wing members of the teapublican circus, you will only see the White House as a

    March 20, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  18. Antonio

    "Nut Gingrich...get over!!!

    March 20, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  19. kocabill

    What we don't need is another first lady that looks like she could play lead in a Jane Goodall movie

    March 20, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |

    Make him an apology that he can't refuse. Newt,.. you're so anal and pompous.

    March 20, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  21. Moderate

    Oh, boo hoo. Newt needs to eat a big bowl of get over it.

    March 20, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  22. One party politics

    It was a joke that took over 400 plus years to get there and 4 more years wouldn't hurt. So Newt, tell us why did it take so long?

    March 20, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  23. frontgate

    Who the H is this guy newt. ( is that a real name) to be asking for an apology from any one. He's the one who should apologize for shaming the American people for the wasted years he held public office.
    He was responsible for the failed 'contract with america', he was censured by the u.s. house of reps and kicked out of office by the people of georiga. he's asking for someone to apologize? hahahahaha. He should kiss the boots of the President of the United States, stand at attention and salute. Oh yeah keep his pie hole shut.
    Who is he anyway?

    March 20, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  24. once upon a horse

    I like DeNiro as an actor but joke or not it was pretty tacky if you ask me. We need to get past this color thing and vote for the candidates for everything BUT for what color they are. I don't agree with Newt on much of anything but I do agree with him on this. If one of the candidates had said it's time for a white FLOTUS to be back in the White House it would have been equally insulting.

    March 20, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  25. michael

    newt will probably trade up again anyway. Calista's expireation date is due any day now

    March 20, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
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